14 November 2009

Meet Denise Williams Roberts

Retailer Denise Williams Roberts knows what she wants, and what her customers want. The first time she saw Dick Idol lighting, she placed a $20,000 order. The fixtures and portables sold through in four months. As Roberts re-tells the story, these were the days before scanners. She says she was ordering so much in the Pacific Coast Lighting showroom that the sales rep told her to slow down. “I can’t write that fast,” he said.
As Idol expanded into furniture and accessories, Roberts followed.
Roberts is the owner of Lilli’s Lighting & Décor in Frisco, Colo. She started with a flower shop and now runs a 4,000-square-foot home furnishings store on two levels.
“I never had enough space” in the original flower shop, Roberts said. She sold fresh and silk flowers, moving several times over the years. One day she noticed the ceiling was unused, so she bought lighting fixtures to hang from there.
Then a storefront became available in downtown Frisco about nine years ago. It was time to stop calling her business a flower shop. She changed the name to Lilli’s Lighting & Décor. (Lilli is her daughter.)

Roberts’ customers are affluent residents who have retired in Summit County. They have owned their own businesses or ran major corporations. Customers are year-round residents or second-home owners. A 29,000-square-foot house is not unusual.
Men love her store, she says, because of the masculine, lodge-y Dick Idol furnishings. Yet Roberts calls Lilli’s Lighting & Décor a “chick” store. “When women come in here, they get all giggly,” she says.

Roberts has shopped markets in Dallas, High Point and Las Vegas. She keeps returning to Dallas because of the discounted hotel rates offered by the Dallas Market Center. The more consecutive markets she attends, the deeper the discount. It’s an incentive to return there.
“You have to go to market to see new product and get excited. Markets energize you,” she said.
Roberts buys containers of furniture and holds the goods in five storage spaces behind her store.
Like other retailers, Roberts is dealing with a bad economy, but she calls her position “financially strong.” She says it is a struggle to get product lines and exclusives. Furnishings are priced competitively but not discounted. Slow-moving merchandise is marked down, but Roberts does not run a sale. June to October is the prime selling season. The store is open six days a week, and Roberts has two part-time sales people. Roberts has two young children (a third moved away from home after graduating college) who work in the store after school.
Roberts has had success with a 24-hour “on approval” policy. If customers like the merchandise, she’ll run their credit card the next day. Those who don’t like it, return the merchandise the next day.
In some cases, Roberts has had only the first name and a phone number of a customer taking merchandise home. But in a small community, where no one is a stranger, she has not been burned, she said. Because the population of Frisco and Summit County is small, Roberts can remember what her customers have purchased. That customer service endears her to customers.

Besides retailing, Roberts offers design consultations with homeowners and advises custom-home builders on lighting. This summer she won an award for interior decorating and furnishing in the Summit County parade of homes competition. (The photos are from a past parade.) Besides the parade of homes, marketing efforts include yellow page advertising, a website and membership in The 3/50 Project. A Facebook page is in the works.

Customers tell her she needs more space because the store is crammed with merchandise. And she would like to have 8,000 square feet, but she won’t move again. Besides, she knows a larger store would not be less cramped. She would fill the space with more goods.

1 comment:

  1. People are investing in commercial furniture industry now. This one is now a promising business for the industrialists.



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